How then do you find this invisible time? You can take two approaches: make big changes that yield drastic results, or make small changes that are doable on a daily basis. This post will mostly cover the latter, as my goal is to offer quick action items that you can do right now to help you regain your time. However, I highly encourage you to consider making big changes (living close to work or rethinking your daily obligations, for instance), because making one big change can often provide you more time than making a bunch of small changes.
But we’re here to talk about quick actions you can take today—even right now—to help you make more time. To regain your sanity and ensure that you’re not just speeding through life with your kids in tow, try the following:
- Eliminate the time-draining activities you don’t really enjoy. Start with taking a good look at which activities you passively do that don’t even yield as much satisfaction. The biggest culprit for most people is television, especially since it’s so easy to get sucked in (reality TV, anyone?). I’ve even cut down online browsing (because really, Kristen and Rob will do just fine without me looking in on their recent breakup).
- Be picky with your hobbies. I recently hit a new record for the longest stretch of blogging at one time: seven hours. Granted, it was for the re-design of this blog and I specifically set aside this time to do just that, but this just goes to show that even enjoyable activities can eat up your time when left unchecked. On a normal day, I blog for about two hours at most every day.
- Cook the night before. Leftovers may not be for everyone, but I tend to cook after the little guy is already asleep so that I can focus 100% on him when he’s awake. If a recipe is pretty simple, then I can probably get away with having my toddler help me cook, but more often than not, my husband and I cook in the later part of the evening and re-heat the next day. Not too fancy, I know, but hey it saves us a ton of time!
- Similarly, pack the night before, especially if you anticipate a hectic next day. For instance, make sure your lunches are packed, as is your purse or diaper bag. Lay out (or at least picture in your mind) what you and your kids plan to wear the next day.
- Get enough sleep. Funny how sleeping a bit more takes up time in the evenings, but this is all the more worthwhile because proper rest ensures that you’re sharp and less likely to forget something.
- Wake up earlier. Once you get enough sleep, you’ll hopefully be able to wake up earlier and squeeze in a few to-dos before your kids are up. As the worst morning person ever, I have a difficult time following this tip, but I do my best because those extra few minutes really make such a difference. For instance, SSBE reader Erika likes to wake up before her family to fit in a quick morning run. Me—I’ll take that time to get dressed as well as start on our breakfast.
- Do daily, minor clean up. Rather than deep-cleaning every day, wipe as you make messes and put items away as you go along. While you may not have a sparkling clean house, at least you’ll avoid piles of mess or accumulating dust.
- Break major chores down over a month. My husband and I used to have chores we rotated on a weekly basis. Suffice it to say, having a kid—while messier—afforded less time to complete them. Rather than stress about the lack of time and extra mess, we rotate major chores on a monthly basis instead. This keeps the house generally clean while not eating up too much time.
- Be particular of invitations and outings. I’m a member of about three meet up groups and sadly I’m not able to attend every single one, nor will I make it a point to. In order to avoid over-scheduling our days, I’m picky about our outings and try not to feel too bad if we have to turn down invitations now and then.
Perhaps the biggest rule to make more time for your kids is to consider your priorities. Activities and tasks that fall higher on your priority list should be allotted its due time, while those that don’t offer much enjoyment or return can be limited or eliminated. Take a look at what’s eating your time and see if its contributions to your life are worth the time you spend on it.
And lastly, focus on your kids’ overall well-being. As parents, we provide for kids in so many ways—from finances to nutrition, from education to entertainment. All are necessary, but sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of their well-being and the simplicity of sharing a simple moment. If all they see is a mom running around frantic and trying to squeeze in a coloring session while juggling work emails, perhaps we can take that as a sign that we need to slow down and find effective ways to reclaim our time.
When have you felt like you don’t have enough time to spend with your kids? What activities would you substitute in lieu for more time?